Note: This post was originally published on Applied Intuition
By Matthew Billingsley
Recently a friend and former co-worker asked me for advice on how to make the most of a home office. After I sent some thoughts and well wishes on their new opportunity I realized I’ve been working out my home for six years now. I’ve loved everyday of it and while I enjoy my setup, I do miss a lot of the camaraderie and collaboration that a traditional office setting provides. While those are key benefits of working in a team setting there are there are just as many benefits to working from home. There is no time-sucking commute, no unsolicited distractions when deadlines lurk, and don’t forget the tax breaks. Keep those utility bills handy come April!
When I tell people I work exclusively from home I often hear: “I could never do that, I’d be too tempted to do [insert interruption].” And you will unless you set some parameters for yourself. We are a remote agency and it does take some discipline and daily routines to make it a productive experience. Here are few ways to do so:
Set hours. Give yourself consistent down time. The computer and phone is always there so the temptation is to check it from wake up to bed. Don’t. Cut yourself off from responding to IMs, emails, and calls after Xpm. This will just set up a good routine for you as well as your clients. Sometimes a project will take you around the clock and set hours are not a possibility. If it’s an urgent matter then use discretion.
Get out. Once or twice a week or a few hours everyday, go to a coffee shop or someplace with wifi just to switch settings and get new sights once in awhile. If you can find a good co-op space that’s even better. Attend workshops and local meetups when time allows. This is a great way to offset the lack of creative collaboration.
Have an office door. If this isn’t possible some alternatives are to try noise-cancelling headphones or position your desk out of sight from home distractions. Whatever you can do here, the point is to eliminate or shut off those things than can pull you away from being productive.
Invest in an EXCELLENT chair. Take it from someone with back problems since his early 20′s, your physical health is just as important as any outside influences. There is nothing more stamina-sapping (physical and mental) than working in a wooden dining room chair for 10 hours a day. Invest in one that has great ergonomics. A few years back I found a slightly used Herman Miller Aeron for roughly half the retail price. A steep price still but it remains my smartest buy to date. This thing will outlive me. Get the best one you can afford and don’t look back.
Over-communicate with your team. There is no more “throwing it over the wall” in this scenario, so if you work in a remote team setting this is crucial. Seek out and invest in collaborative tools such as Smartsheet and Basecamp to keep everyone involved.
Beyond just “staying on the radar” with timely calls and emails make sure your contributions are effective and add value to the project and to others’ productivity. Something as simple as sharing an interesting article along with your summation a few times a week will go a long way to keep you fresh in people’s minds from states or countries away.
Set borders for your co-inhabitants. This may be the most overlooked element when making the decision to work from home and one can really make or break your home office setup. If you share space with a roommate or significant other during peak hours make sure they know you are working. Even when you’re on Facebook, reading industry or world news, browsing dribbble.com, etc. this is still considered work time. I had a friend who set off to work from home shortly after me and this situation made it a nightmare for them. They were continually harassed with requests for “help” with mundane tasks like errands or light bulb replacements. Please address this immediately before you set up at home.
Finally, take breathers during the day. For example, take a 10-20 min nap if you need to. Get a quick jog in your neighborhood to get your blood flowing before or after lunch. Play a round of Halo if that’s what you need to do. Because who’s going to stop you? The goal is to stay productive while at home and you’re the CEO of your time.
Tags: Creative process
, Home office
, Remote work